Occupational lung disease
My grandfather, an immigrant, barely made ends meet with farm work when he arrived in South Africa around the start of the 20th century. He was lured into swapping the open fields for underground life as a worker on the gold mines.
The mining industry is going to court to avoid paying nearly 30 times more in statutory levies to the compensation fund that deals with mine workers' claims for occupationally acquired lung diseases.
The Department of Health is to sign an agreement with the Chamber of Mines and National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to kick-start a project to benefit former mineworkers who are seeking compensation for occupational lung diseases.
The burden of disease resulting from working in mines is unacceptably high in South Africa, Health Minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang said on Tuesday. Speaking in the National Assembly during debate on the Occupational Diseases in Mines and Works Amendment Bill, she said about 25 000 compensation applications were made each year for occupational lung diseases resulting from working in mines. In the past, occupational health has often been neglected, and yet the fact remains that globally over one million workers die from work-related diseases and injuries, and there are over 160-million cases of work-related diseases annually. The amendments in the bill might appear to be minor, but had far-reaching implications, as they will unblock some of the problems experienced thus far, she said. Among other things, the bill extended the length of time during which an ex-miner could apply to be medically examined from six to 24 months. Tshabalala-Msimang said one of the most important provisions in the bill was one that limited commission for agents who assisted mineworkers in accessing compensation. A fee of not more than half a percent of the benefit paid to the sick worker could be charged, and the bill made it an offence to charge more. The measure received the support of all sides of the House, and will now go to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.(Source:SAPA, 22 October 2002)